NO respectable race site would be complete without a section on
The Queen of Speed - Ms. Hurst Golden Shifter. Read the story below. Very interesting.
Well as I said above, no racing website would be complete without the inclusion of Miss Linda Vaughn. Linda ultimately became known as Miss Hurst Golden Shifter. The "First Lady of Racing" Linda Faye Vaughn was born in a little Georgia town called Dalton, but big dreams and a big personality helped her become a legendary figure in the wide world of motor sports. Nearly every resident in and around her hometown worked at one of the area’s carpet mills. However, she was destined to do things in life that reached far beyond laboring inside a factory. Linda began her career as a dental technician, a part-time job she obtained while in high school. After graduating high school she began working full time as a dental technician. As a teenager Vaughn entered the Miss Georgia contest, where she met the people that were organizing a competition for “Miss Atlanta International Raceway,” It was Atlanta that got me
started in the professional business, in 1961, and I graduated that year and entered the contest. There were 200 girls in it and I mean they had a beautiful contest. And I went at it wholeheartedly, not to win a beauty contest, but to represent racing because I liked it that much. And I won.” She loved her new role. As a “beauty queen,”Her basic job was to hand out trophies, kiss the winning driver and look good doing it. She garnered plenty of attention during her reign as Miss Atlanta Speedway, including doing The Twist while wearing a skin-tight red sequined body suit with stock car racing great Glenn “Fireball” Roberts. This publicity stunt made the news wires and catapulted Vaughn into the national spotlight. After her reign as Miss Atlanta Raceway was up, Linda entered another beauty contest, this time sponsored by Pure Oil Company. She won that title as well, and assumed the role of Miss Pure Firebird a position she retained for 3 1/2 years. Pure Oil merged with Union Oil Company and that merger signaled the end of her career as Miss Firebird and Linda was suddenly out of a job. “When I first started in the business, I never took advantage of the fact that I could go into the pit and garage area by being Miss Firebird. So I’d only go in there when I had to,” Vaughn said in an interview years back. “When I had to go in there, I’d say, ‘I’m here to do a job’ and would get a pass, go in, take my pictures, then I’d come out and stay down in the scoring area where the ladies were allowed.” Meanwhile, George Hurst—who had used women to help draw attention to his shifter
manufacturing company during this time period was on the lookout for a new model for the 1966 racing season. Linda being the automotive oriented gal that she is, opened up an issue of Hot Rod Magazine
and noticed an ad from Hurst who were looking for a new Miss Hurst Golden Shifter. Vaughn called Hurst (whom she had gotten to know from the races) and he suggested she enter the contest. She won the preliminary at Atlanta, then
the title overall among 200 other entries. Of course there were several other beautiful women vying for the job, so Vaughn did something unusual—she made a formal business presentation to the Hurst Performance board of directors the night of the final judging, telling them how she was going to not only perform as the race queen, but also how she was going to make the Hurst name more famous than ever. Thus began Linda's long career as Miss Hurst. Of course, the most visible duty for her was during the pre-race “shows” where she would ride around on the deck of a Hurst parade car fitted with a special platform to stand on (featuring a super-sized Hurst Shifter starting out with a standard white ball handle and later fitted with a T-handle) all the while waving to the crowds and performing her famous dramatic, exaggerated bows followed by blowing kisses. Towards the late 1960's, Linda's services became in such demand that Hurst had to hire additional blonde beauties - dubbed the Hurstettes, to fill in for Linda at various racing events across the USA. At more prestigious events, Linda alongside the other two or three Hurstettes, made their appearance. Yes, a sight for sore eyes indeed! As part of Hurst’s popular Armed Forces Club, Vaughn did two tours in Vietnam and took a number of trips to military hospitals including in Okinawa, Puerto Rico and Hawaii, doing her duty entertaining and spending time to boost the morale of American soldiers.
The response was overwhelming, as she would receive as many as 1,000 fan letters per week. The iconic Miss Hurst Golden Shifter has been a part of the racing and automotive scene since the early '60s; she knows everyone we regard
as heroes (and many more we don't), and she never disappoints with her insanely accurate memory. Meet her once, even for just a moment, and there's a good chance she'll remember your name and what you talked about a decade later. She has probably the most recognized face (and let's be honest, the most recognized breasts, too!) In 1979, Vaughn was awarded the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) “Person of the Year” title, and was inducted into the SEMA hall of fame eight year later. Other awards included winning the “Ollie” in the coveted Car Craft magazine All-Star Drag Racing Team Awards plus being elected into the Motorsports Hall of Fame. In 1984, Vaughn had become so popular in the world of motor racing that Sports Illustrated devoted a full-length article to her, prompting good friend A.J. Foyt to say, “You got a 10-page story in Sports Illustrated! I won Indy four times, and I didn’t get a 10-page story in Sports Illustrated! I don’t know what you’ve got, but you’ve got it!” Fast-forward to 2009 and another award came when SEMA’s Businesswomen’s Network (SBN) presented her its Lifetime Achievement Award. During the 2012 running of the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, a special “Linda Vaughn Tribute Roast” was held. It was
filled to capacity with more than 300 enthusiastic attendees, there to pay tribute to Vaughn—the “Queen of Speed.” She has been working intermittently on a book project, and when it finally comes out it's going to be a fantastically entertaining read. But the basic message she wants to leave the readers with is this: "These are some of the stories that a lot of fans don't get to read because I don't get too personal too often. They're stories from my heart. [The racers] are my brothers, my heart. I'm married to racing, honey! That's why I have no children. I have everyone else's children. The Andrettis, the Foyts, the Unsers, the Allisons...they're all my kids, and it's a large family!" Linda Vaughn is The First Lady of Racing, and she always will be.